First, Second and Third Acts

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Vonnie Hughes sharing insights from her multi-act life.

Here’s Vonnie!

Vonnie's PR photo (2)

I haven’t had only two acts in my life, but three. I enjoy change. It challenges the brain. But switching from one career to another was not just because I needed a change, but also of necessity.

For about twenty years I worked in legal offices in Auckland, New Zealand, first as a legal secretary and then as a legal executive. Very long hours at a set salary but with nice surroundings in the main. After a while it began to grate on me that I was doing the work of a qualified solicitor but without the money. Sure, someone signed off on my more ambitious cases but rarely bothered to check them over. “Where do I sign? Thanks Vonnie.” And off they’d go for a game of golf.

About this time I began to help job seekers within the offices where I worked. Some wanted to leave that particular office, and some wanted to work there. I had a few notable successes and thought, “I’d like to do this for a living. Not so much recruiting as head-hunting.” Saw an ad for an executive search administrator/researcher, answered it, got interviewed and bingo, my Second Act was born. And this was exciting. Yep. Late forties and finally found what I wanted to do. Any time to finish my degree? You must be joking. Rotary, overseas students, two adult sons, running marathons for ‘relaxation’ and work. Just did a few business diplomas instead.

Then we moved from New Zealand to Australia and retirement smacked me in the face. Didn’t want to carry on with executive search/recruiting because I didn’t know about the background of many Australian companies or the general working ethos of the district. Unlike some, I don’t see recruitment as ‘sales.’ Where to? Too young to retire, surely?

So I picked up an old hobby. Writing. Had never really stopped writing since I was seven. Poetry, short stories etc. But this time I jumped in boots and all and began to write a Regency novel. Got accepted. Joined a couple of writers’ groups. Settled in to researching and writing more Regencies. All got published. Then social media got in the way. Spent more time doing PR than in writing. Then…I got weary of an overcrowded, under-researched market. Every man and his dog were writing Regencies because the cycle of popularity had turned their way once more. And I began to read more and more romantic suspense and general suspense. Then I began to write it. And voilà! I enjoyed writing once again.


So now my incarnation No. 3 part (b) keeps me busy although I still LOATHE the pirating and the endless PR. But I write more for myself now, and less for publishers. And I’ve made a lot of on-line friends. So I’ll just keep chipping away.

I don’t have any advice for anyone attempting a second act. Why? Because everyone’s needs are different. Their general outlooks are different so their plans of attack will vary considerably.

We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.
Harrison Ford

Vonnie’s Books


Where to find Vonnie…

Website | Facebook | Amazon

Joanne here!

Vonnie, thanks for sharing your business and creative successes. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.

10 Ideas for Shaking Bad JuJu

I’m introducing a new series on my blog – The Power of 10. In numerology, the number 10 resonates with the vibrations of so many positive energies, among them creativity, originality, adaptability, and individuality.

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome author and social media consultant Joanne McAlpine.

Here’s Joanne!

joannemThis week, I met someone who lectured me for a half hour. The topic had nothing to do with me, rather her fears and that I should be fearful too. I don’t want to go into details but it left me with a depressed feeling that typically sticks with me for a few days, sometime weeks. As some of you know, I was participating in the free e-course given by a procrastination coach. There was great energy in that group so I brought my issue to them and asked for advice on how to shake this bad juju. I was amazed by the great advice and by the end of the day I was in good spirits again. I thought I’d share the advice here. Disclaimer: Keep in mind, this is just advice from your average joe schmo, I’m not a professional. I’m just passing on what has worked for me and others.

1. Run – It was the first advice given to me and that’s exactly what I did. It was a sunny day too which I think helps the mood.

2. When you are in work, find a private place to meditate a bit then go to the gym at night to work it off.

3. Change your body posture – and was given this great youtube video, I highly suggest because I find it works.

4. A walk in nature – when I went for my run, I was thinking this and went for a run in the park. I interval run so I run a bit and walk a bit. I find nature to be non-judgemental and un-demanding.

5. Get your brain to work on it – ask yourself, “What can I do right now to make myself feel better?” And the great and glorious brain that we have will go to work on it.

6. Call a friend.

7. Brain Gym – this was a new one for me. I’ve used it to help DD with her left and rights when she was little but never used it as a way to put myself in a better mood. I’ll say this, you get so focused on the exercises you forget what was bothering you.

8. Yoga – I agree. It has helped me in the past and I need to get back to it. I found a free monthly class through Check it out, you never know what you might find.

9. Gratitude List – list what makes you grateful.

10. Ask for Help.

Other ideas for fighting the blues: gardening, getting that sunshine, standing on your head (if you can’t do this try hanging off the side of your bed, being inverted for a couple of minutes has helped me hold back the blues), spending some time with pets, watching fish, healthy eating.

In the end, it was a beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly. I ran and walked in the park. I listened to music for a bit then turned it off and asked myself why I was upset. I didn’t want to suppress the feelings but rather understand why I had them without dwelling on them. When I realized this was about her fears and not mine, I was able to let it go. By the time, I got home, that nagging feeling was gone and my good jujus were back.

Joanne’s Video

Joanne’s Debut Novel


At the dawn of colonizing planets, humanity supports a bold new experiment on Earth to create three self-sustaining habitats, one underground, one above, and one under the sea. With dreams of colonization, they test human capacity by isolating the inhabitants from the outside world for a year.

Telsa and Simon join the first inhabitants on Oceanus, the undersea habitat. Simon leaves his youngest, Rosie, with her grandmother. It would only be a year, what could go wrong?

Everything runs smoothly until Simon discovers a network of surveillance throughout Oceanus, then Telsa uncovers a rumor of a devastating virus on the Earth’s surface. Central Command insists on their isolation but a new security force infiltrates the habitats under the guise that they are there for everyone’s protection.

All the while, unbeknownst to any of them, a religious zealot sees the habitats as his destiny, a place where he and his fellow believers can embark on growing a new country.


Where to find Joanne…

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

An Artist’s Prayer

On Monday evening, I participated in another session with The Artist’s Way group, facilitated by Lisa Browning of One Thousand Trees. Lisa shared the following prayer, written by visual arts teacher and writer Marion Reidel.


I will step out of the shadows
And will accept all invitations
I will seek out play dates
Down the spiritual path
In the realm of the sacred
Paying attention to life around me
I am witness to my own life
I will practice being kind to myself
And experiment with solitude
Welcoming my inner silence
What is unsought, will go undetected
And what I focus on will expand

I will create for my own satisfaction
And be happy with what I create
Giving myself permission to be a beginner
I will evict my inner critic
So I will surrender the need to be perfect
For there are no mistakes
For I have all the courage I need
Yet, I will admit when I need help
Letting go of the negative
I will feel less frustrated
I don’t know yet what I can do
And clarity will find me

From Human Anatomy to the Anatomy of a Murder

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Dr. Noelle Granger sharing insights from her multi-act life.

Here’s Noelle!

newnoelleI came to writing pretty late, when I decided to retire earlier than I’d originally wanted but realized the time was right!

Act I (a long time ago)

I went to an all-female college, got my Ph.D. in anatomy at a medical school, and after a few stutter steps, started my academic life as a faculty member at a university medical school. Somewhere between high school and graduate school, I figured I was best suited for life in the academy; I’m not sure why – it just happened. I never thought about the fact that I wouldn’t have an easy life because of the requisite parts to an academic career. Maybe I should have.

I taught human anatomy (with real bodies) to medical students and paramedics; this was the most fulfilling part of my profession as far as I was concerned. I did bench research, and this was the toughest part – producing results for and writing academic papers, reworking them when they were not immediately accepted; reviewing for journals; writing chapters and books; presenting your results at meetings; training students and assistants in your laboratory; and last but not least, continually searching for grant support. There is a required service component to this career – serving on boards and committees for your department, the school, the university, your professional organizations, the state and even the country. This service gave me a lot of satisfaction, because through it I helped establish programs and organizations for women at the university.

Act 2 (the somewhat distant past)

I ran out of energy. That’s the long and short of it. I’m married to an OB/GYN who was naturally tied to a hospital and I raised two children. I don’t regret any of it, but I ran out of energy. I also became increasingly frustrated by the fact that all the writing I was doing was formulaic – the research is creative, the writing up of that research is not. I started writing stories for my children about my childhood in my copious free time, and then asked: Why not do this full time?

Act 3 (last six years)

After “retiring,” I decided to write a book and did it in about six months – a murder mystery because I read mysteries every chance I get (okay, even in the bathroom) and could use my medical background to make it real. I thought that first book was wonderful; the critique group I joined did not. Patiently and slowly, the group taught me about writing fiction, dialogue, and scenes.

Finally, four years later, I self-published my first book.

Then I waited around to see if it became popular. Newsflash: you have to work to get your book noticed and read and reviewed. So for the last two years I’ve been on a steep learning curve with social media and marketing. Plus I got hooked on my characters and wrote a second book.

Act 3 (present time)

Right now I am about halfway through my third book. I’ve learned about the value of beta readers and editors and hired a local marketing group. My second book came out a little over a month ago, and this time around I had a launch party, interviews, news releases, some book/signing and readings and the helpful promotion of the book by my blogging sisters. I’m thinking of stretching a little and writing a historical novel, based on one of the Pilgrims who came to the New World on the Mayflower. I grew up in Plymouth, was a tour guide there, and have a deep and abiding respect for the ordinary men and women who also undertook to change their lives, albeit a change far more daunting than mine.


My second act didn’t require much thinking or a lot of bravery, so I’m short of advice on that subject. If you are completely frustrated with your current career, maybe making the change earlier is advisable. Otherwise, you can begin to write on the side. A lot of famous writers started like this (think J.K Rowling). Try writing short stories for magazine; I did that and it built up my confidence. When the mortgage is paid and the nest is empty, it might be a good time to take the real jump. Take the time to learn about writing as a career, then the leap won’t be over an abyss. When the time is right, you’ll know it.

I have a quote from a framed picture in my loft office. It was given to me by my daughter and is from Edgar Allen Poe: “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” Indeed I do.

I wish you a calm wind and smooth seas for your new career!

Noelle’s Books

noellegranger1On an icy February morning, Rhe Brewster, an emergency room nurse with a nose for investigation, is called to a dock in the harbor of the small coastal town of Pequod, Maine. A consultant to the Pequod Police Department, Rhe is responding to a discovery by one of the local lobstermen: a finger caught in one of his traps. The subsequent finding of the body of a young girl, wrapped in a sail and without a finger, sends the investigation into high gear and reveals the existence of three other missing girls of the same age, plus a childhood friend of Rhe’s. Battered by increasingly vitriolic objections from her husband, the pregnant Rhe continues her search, dealing with unexpected obstacles and ultimately facing the challenge of crossing an enormous frozen bog to save herself. Will she survive? Is the kidnapper someone she knows? In Death in a Dacron Sail, the second book in the the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Rhe’s nerves and endurance are put to the test as the kidnapper’s action hits closer to home.


noellegranger2On a warm fall afternoon, the sweet odor of decay distracts Rhe Brewster from the noise and fury of her son’s soccer game. She’s a tall, attractive emergency room nurse with a type A personality, a nose for investigation and a yen for adrenalin. This time her nose leads her to the wet, decaying body of a young woman, sitting in a chair at the far end of the soccer field. Her first call is to her brother-in-law, Sam Brewster, who is Sheriff of Pequod, the coastal Maine town where she lives. Sam and Rhe’s best friend Paulette, Pequod’s answer to Rachel Ray, are her biggest sources of encouragement when Rhe decides to help the police find the killer.

Rhe is thwarted in her investigation by an old frenemy, the Dean of Students at the local college, and her husband, a professor at the college, who resents her involvement in anything other than being a wife and mother. While looking for a name and information about the young woman, Rhe discovers an escort service using college students, which leads her to a high class brothel at a local seaside estate and a company dealing in stolen body parts. She can dodge bullets, but is no match for the kidnappers who leave her to die in a mortuary freezer.

In Sudden Death, Rhe Brewster meets Kinsey Milhone, but with internet access and the struggles of family life.



N.A. Granger is a Professor Emerita at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. After forty years of research, teaching anatomy to undergraduates, medical students and residents and raising a family, she decided to turn her hand and her knowledge of clinical anatomy to mystery writing.

Dr. Granger grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a century-old house facing the sea. Descended from a family that settled in Maine in the 1700s, she spent her childhood summers on and in New England waters, some of the best times sailing off the coast of Maine. Her time in New England led to the creation of Pequod, Maine, and her protagonist, Rhe Brewster.

In addition to Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Dr. Granger has written for the Deep South Magazine, Sea Level Magazine, Coastal Living and the Bella Online Literary Review. Her next Rhe Brewster mystery is on the way.

Dr. Granger lives with her husband in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but spends part of every summer in Maine.

Where to find Noelle…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Joanne here!

Noelle, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.


Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate Author Stella Marie Alden sharing her thoughts about change and introducing her debut novel, How to Train Your Knight.

Here’s Stella!

stella“Nobody likes change.”

Twenty years ago, I considered my boss’s words carefully, and unlike the woman I am now, I said nothing. But I disagreed fully. I liked change. A lot.

In fact, it’s when things stay the same, that I am most unhappy. But not everything. For example, I’ve been married for many years. But he has changed, too. So, in a way, I am not married to the same man. I have been married to many. The young man who charmed me off my feet, the middle aged man who steadfastly stood arm and arm as we raised our girls, and now, the studious professor who is studying for a master’s degree in nutrition so he will have a new career as he enters retirement.

Our body cells regenerate completely in x days.



Year of our Lord, 1276.

In the hours just before dawn, blasphemous curses echo throughout the stone manor. A knife clatters to the floor and a feisty young widow is bound, blindfolded, and led to the marriage alter. The king couldn’t possibly have sanctioned this farce of a marriage, could he? After all, she alone transformed a few mud huts and starving serfs into a flourishing town, never once hesitating to pay generous taxes to his royal kingdom. Abandon her beloved people to be ruled by her new husband, an ignorant Templar knight? Never! the Lady Ann vows.

A murderous witch for a wife? The Beast of Thornhill finds himself in the middle of either a cruel jest or an evil conspiracy. After returning from the Holy wars, he accepts bestowment of a small parcel of land in return for saving King Edward’s life. But the reward comes with a warning regarding the estate’s mistress. Despite his insatiable attraction to the black-haired beauty, he allows her time to warm to him while observing her strange, forward-thinking ways. But when all is on the line, will he stand by her through the inquisition or will they both hang for her secrets?


Chapter One

Year of our Lord 1276

“By God, drag her down here! Naked if you must! Bread and water from now to eternity if you can’t!” Sir Marcus Blackwell slammed his fist on the well-worn table and the sound echoed back from every direction. Of all the bad luck. Forced into marriage with a foul-mouthed, murderous widow.

He clenched his teeth when the next bout of high-pitched screams and curses exploded from the floor above. Crashes, clanging, and banging followed. He cringed as the Lady Ann’s strident screaming rang throughout the stone manor and probably into the courtyard.

“He can’t steal my lands this easily. He’ll live just long enough to rue this day. I shall never, ever, turn my people over to a blood-thirsty, gold-grabbing beast. I’d rather be cursed to hell. Nay, verily, I’d rather marry the devil himself than see myself married to him.”

Beast? He’d strangle the minstrel who’d taken his sword’s moniker and baptized him with it instead. He was a holy crusader, deserving of respect, not an animal.

Crossing himself while counting to ten, he paced the dark hall lit by a single weak torch. Shadows danced across dark tapestries, beyond a hearth the size of two horses, and over enough tables to feed a small army. Thatch crunched under his boots, releasing a perfume of lavender and grasses. He stopped for a respite of blessed silence. What in God’s creation have I stepped into?

When the mayhem started up again, it was from his first-in-command, Thomas D’Agostine. “The devil take it, watch out. A knife!” A dagger fell upon stone with a metallic clatter.

“Damnation. The bitch nicked me.” The smack of a hand against skin, a female yelp of pain, then the battle paused momentarily.

“Enough!” The king’s command would be obeyed. Certainly, she’d have to understand that. He stood at the foot of the massive stone staircase and waited for the thundering echoes to cease before continuing at a lesser volume. Envisioning the vile creature, he shuddered. It was far too late to retreat now. He’d wanted the land and bedding the ancient hag was part of the bargain. “I said, do her no harm. Gag, bind, and blindfold the wench if you must. For the love of God, she’s, but one woman.”



Stella Marie Alden loves Zumba, yoga, watercolor painting, and fixing up her house.

Her first book, ‘How to Train Your Knight’, won Romance Writers of America coveted Molly and Show me the Sparks Contests, and placed in three others. Truly remarkable, considering she’s only been writing for three years.

Growing up in Vermont, she loved to make up stories. Crayons fought each other over size and placement in their cardboard box and imaginary friends crowded the house. Her brother often complained. “Tell her no one’s here, Mother.”

Her career paths have varied. She’s been a librarian, a classical clarinetist, recording studio engineer, broadcast electronics repairman, and now she architects software programs. She lives in Bergen County, NJ with her life-long hero and their two cats. Her two girls are grown but ever supportive. You go Mom!

Where to find Stella

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Joanne here!

Stella, you are a poster child for reinvention. Thanks for sharing your story and good luck with How to Train Your Night. Happy Release Day!

Don’t Just Dream It!

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Tracy Noble sharing her entrepreneurial journey.

Here’s Tracy!

tracynobleBriefly describe your first act

Throughout university and after I graduated, I worked in media coordination as well as in print advertising at a major daily newspaper, and then at a magazine, for nearly ten years combined. I loved the hustle and bustle of these jobs, and particularly enjoyed exercising my writing muscles when given the opportunity — which unfortunately, wasn’t very often.

What triggered the need for change?

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, the shock forever altered how I looked at life. My husband and I had been told we couldn’t have children, so when we found out we were pregnant, everything changed. I couldn’t help but think there was more to my working life than just settling for what I was doing simply because it paid well and fit in with what I had studied in school. I decided to take some time off and spend my daughter’s younger years at home with her and really think about what I wanted to do with my life.

At one point I went back to school and took some library technician courses, but upon realizing that the glory days of working in a library are gone and that the reality would be only part-time hours, including nights and weekends, I decided that was not where I wanted to be.

After that I decided to look more seriously at freelance writing. I found myself writing for pennies for an American writing farm (4oo words for 25 cents!), but from there I built up my portfolio and started ghostwriting for various blogs, websites and fellow writers.

Where are you now?

I now call myself a virtual assistant, but unlike traditional administrative virtual assistants, my main focus is content creation, ghostwriting and writing. I work from home, which allows me to be there for my daughter before and after school. It also means I can walk my dog in the middle of the afternoon if I want to. But perhaps the best part is that I get to exercise my writing muscles every day. I love writing and I had forgotten just how much until I started this entrepreneurial journey. Now writing is all I want to do!

I am also in the process of writing a book. I love writing for other people, but it’s about time I write something (big) for myself.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Just do it. Life is too short to not follow your passion – even if that means starting out part time or on a casual basis. I realize that people have different situations and not everyone can just quit their job to pursue their passion, but do take the time to think about it, write it down, and plan it out. Don’t just dream it. Also, surround yourself with supportive people and ignore the naysayers. You only live once – you might as well live doing what you love.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

It’s a bit crass, but Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, which is from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It means, “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Whenever I am faced with a challenging person or situation I repeat this in my head. It reminds me that each and every person has faced adversity and challenges. It’s how each person chooses to deal with a particular situation that determines their overall success and happiness. It’s important to always have a positive outlook; without that, you cannot be happy. There is no room for self-pity in happiness.

Where to find Tracy

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Joanne here!

Tracy, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. I look forward to the release of your book and would love to feature it on this blog. Please keep me posted.

The Writer’s Prayer

Yesterday evening, I joined The Artist’s Way group, facilitated by Lisa Browning of One Thousand Trees. One of the tasks in Week 4 involved creating an artist’s prayer. While reflecting, I found inspiration in the following prayer written by Sandy Tritt.


Open my mind, Lord. Grant me the talent to write with clarity and style, so my words go down rich and smooth, like fine wine, and leave my reader thirsty for more.

Open my heart, Lord. Grant me the sensitivity to understand my characters–their hopes, their wants, their dreams–and help me to confer that empathy to my reader.

Open my soul, Lord, so I may be a channel to wisdom and creativity from beyond my Self. Stoke my imagination with vivid imagery and vibrant perception.

But most of all, Lord, help me to know the Truth, so my fiction is more honest than actuality and reaches the depths of my reader’s soul.

Wrap these gifts with opportunity, perseverance, and the strength to resist those who insist it can’t be done.